The group dynamic has changed greatly over the years from like-minded emcees getting together to push the envelope with their music, to a collectiive of one’s homeboys who actually have to work for their handout. They’re usually fronted by an established artist (who’s looking to get another album off their deal) in hopes that their fans will give it a listen. Most members these days can string together a full verse, but lack the charisma and skills to hold someone’s attention for 48 (or sometimes even 16) bars. This ongoing system is no more apparent than in the recent releases of two different groups: Snoop Presents Dubb Union and Life In The Concrete Jungle by B.G. & The Choppa City Boyz.
Dubb Union consists of West Coast emcees Soopafly, Bad Lucc, & Damani who first came together on “Like This” from Snoop’s Tha Blue Carpet Treatment. Soopafly is the most familiar thanks to his production work over the years and Damani claims in a verse to have been in XXL’s Show & Prove a few years back, but you get the idea they’ve joined forces to accomplish what they couldn’t on their own: put out an album. The trio hail from different cities and have banded together to unify the West Coast–California specifically. With such lofty goals it’s somewhat surprising that the music still revolves around the typical topics of gangs and girls. Although “Sign Language” rightfully looks into the similarities of hand gestures between gangs and rap collectives, they sound much more comfortable dealing with the fairer sex as heard on “Don’t Like You Girl” or “Bacc Talk” where they put gold diggers back in their place. Sadly anyone looking for a few new Snoop verses will be sorely disappointed as he sticks to interludes and has the audacity to not even rap on the song he gets a feature credit on.
B.G. on the other hand, is much more productive in …Concrete Jungle. Alongside Gar and Snipe, the trio bring a sense of realism that’s sorely lacking thanks to an overabundance of studio gangsters. This is evident on songs like “Keep It Real” which features Alfamega as they manage to sound fresh while sticking to such a mundane topic. It’s even more astounding because the beat sounds like it came straight from a Sonic The Hedgehog level. “Blow It” doesn’t fare much better with it’s Mega Man inspired beat. But the two underdogs manage to hold their own as they define their own voice and persona on the mic throughout.
Unfortunately a lack of creativity and beats softer than butter left out in the Texas sun do everybody in. Each camp faces different yet similar obstacles as The Chopper City Boyz mix hard lyrics with mushy production while Dubb Union’s beats outshine them all together. Snipe’s “Dealer” blatantly interpolates the chorus of “Beat It” to the point it sounds like a joke. “Never Look Back” will have most listeners wondering when was the last time they heard “Slow Motion’ and “Don’t Step On My White Feet” is latest ode to wearing crisp kicks to the club and daring all comers to step on them. Not to be outdone, Dubb Union’s “We Both Know” liberally samples (beat jacks) Hi-Tek’s “Let It Go” from the 2nd Hi-Teknology and adds typical West Coast flare to it.
In hindsight, both collectives sport the sound of their respective regions, but ultimately fail on establishing any foundation to build on towards the future. The biggest winner here is B.G. as he serves as the one with the least to lose from average group endeavors.
LIFE IN THE CONCRETE JUNGLE
SNOOP DOGG PRESENTS DUBB UNION
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